BAGHDAD, Iraq—Three months into the U.S. buildup of troops in Iraq, violence appears to be rising, both against American troops and Iraqi civilians.
A body suspected of being one of three missing American soldiers was pulled from the Euphrates River on Wednesday, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of two Marines and seven soldiers in separate attacks Tuesday, bringing to 80 the number of American service members who've died in Iraq so far this month.
Five Iraqi civilians were killed and 17 wounded in a morning gun battle just outside the walled-off Green Zone, the central Baghdad refuge for U.S. military headquarters and Iraqi government offices. Thirty unidentified corpses were found throughout the capital.
Outside Baghdad, a suicide bomber exploded at a bustling cafe in Mandali, a bustling town on the Iranian border, killing 22 people and wounding 13.
The mayhem comes as statistics that McClatchy Newspapers compiled suggest that the violence, which had dropped in the first weeks after the U.S. began adding troops to Baghdad, is creeping up again.
Statistics on the numbers of car bombs, roadside bombs, people wounded and people killed show that May is likely to be the bloodiest month so far this year. The number of anonymous bodies found on Baghdad's streets, victims of what U.S. officials call sectarian murders, is averaging 22.5 a day, up nearly 50 percent from April and March and equal to the rate in January, before the troop buildup began.
U.S. officials say that an increase in American deaths was expected as U.S. troops fanned out over the city.
Nearly every day, they tout successes in rooting out al-Qaida-affiliated forces. This week, American troops uncovered at least two terrorist havens northeast of Karmah, about 30 miles west of Baghdad, that appeared to be al-Qaida torture chambers. Seventeen hostages were freed, including a 13-year-old boy who'd been severely beaten and had electrical wires attached to his tongue. The operations left 19 al-Qaida members dead and 58 in the hands of U.S. troops.
Before dawn Wednesday, Iraqi border guards seized a car loaded with bombs and cables near the Iranian border city of Panjwin, about 190 miles northwest of Baghdad.
"This (effort to secure the country) is resulting in more confrontations with outlaws," said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. "More troops involved in more operations (is) resulting in more confrontations."
With the last brigade of the 30,000-troop surge only now arriving, Caldwell said the summer would prove a volatile and crucial period in the war. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has promised to report to Congress in September on the progress of the buildup.
"It's going to be harder before it gets better," Caldwell said. "That's to be expected."
The U.S. military said it had yet to determine whether the man found in the Euphrates River, described as Western-looking and apparently wearing an American uniform, is a U.S. soldier. Three American service members are still missing after gunmen overwhelmed a U.S. observation post near Mahmoudiyah on May 12, killing four other American soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter. A search by 6,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops has turned up no trace of the missing men.
Since Friday, 24 American service members have died in Iraq. Six of those were killed Tuesday by roadside bombs. Another died from small arms fire. Two Marines were killed in combat in Anbar province, though the circumstances of their deaths weren't disclosed.
There were conflicting reports on the shoot-out near the Green Zone. Iraq's Interior Ministry said it appeared to be sparked by an attempt to kidnap shopkeepers. Gunmen in military uniforms kidnapped dozens there in December. An Iraqi official for the Baghdad security plan said Wednesday's gun battled started when a private security convoy came under attack.
ON THE WEB
A roundup of violence in Iraq is posted daily on the McClatchy Washington Bureau's Web site, at www.mcclatchydc.com. Click on "Iraq War Coverage."
(McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent Mohammed al Dulaimy contributed to this report.)